Ready to Read, Yeah, Really

Wow, that word — tenderfoot — is a, no, not actually a blast from the past, more like a hiss. It brings back dim memories of my mom as a Den Mother for my bro’s Cub Scout troop. He never went forward into Boy Scouts, never became a “Tenderfoot” or went through the ranks to soar as an eagle, but he was a Cub Scout. It just wasn’t his thing. I, on the other hand, devoured the Boy Scout Handbook. I thought it was great. Not so much the organization but all the cool stuff you’d learn — like how to tie all kinds of knots and survive in the back country. I still think the Boy Scout motto is a good one — Be Prepared — even though at this point in my life I know that’s impossible. A more reasonable motto might be “Pay Attention” or “Do the Best You Can” or the Scarlett O’Hara motto, “Tomorrow is Another Day.” Even Aldous Huxley’s wise words from Island “Here and now, boys, here and now.” Still, “Be Prepared”? It’s a good one.

And I am prepared. Boy am I. I have the books I’m reading from this afternoon all marked. My talk all revised and, and and I know what I’m going to wear — clean clothes. As for the poems I’ve chosen? I have no idea if they are the best choice, but I wanted to keep it light and entertaining. I also realized I write most of my poems about dogs and the Refuge. OH well. That’s my life…

Since some people wanted to read my talk, here it is… I’ve timed it at 17 minutes. We’ll see.

Poetry Reading, Rio Grande County Museum, June 24, 2022

Martha Kennedy

Thank you everyone for coming to the Rio Grande County Museum grand re-opening celebration! And thank you for being here to listen to me read some of my poems. 

It’s a little strange because even though I’m a writer — I’ve written five novels and a couple of memoirs — I have never seen myself as a poet. 

In fact, I think poetry is one of the most useless things on the planet. At the same time, it’s one of the most important. I have never been able to reconcile those two realities and even I — a retired English teacher — believe they are both true. 

As for me? My life would diminished without poetry, not the poetry I write particularly, but poetry others have written.

I wrote my first real poem when I was 12. I gave it to my dad to read. He thought it was so good that he gave me his portable typewriter. 

My dad was a mathematician who dreamed of being a poet. He knew his poetry was not great, but he kept at it all his life. When he read my poem, he formed a dream for his little girl. She would grow up to be a poet. 

This past February it hit me hard that my dad died 50 years ago. It seemed impossible so much time had passed, and, somehow, it felt like a fresh wound.

Meanwhile — though I didn’t know it — one of those “cosmic” things was brewing in Alamosa. 

Last fall, when the call came out for submissions to Messages from the Hidden Lake, the literary magazine published by the Friends of the Alamosa Public Library, I submitted three short poems, sonnets, all love poems.

In February, while I was thinking about my dad, I got an email telling me two of my sonnets had won prizes — a third prize and an honorable mention in Adult Poetry. I was surprised. Then I thought, “Hey Dad! Now I’m a poet!” I decided to compile my recent poems into a little book and dedicate it to my dad.

The third prize winner is a love poem to a pair of hiking boots and the places we went together. I wore those boots for more than 15 years, hiking in all kinds of places. I had them resoled four times before they finally blew out.

Dusty Boots —

Dusty boots have been my best friends
Taking me where I’ve been and where I’ve dreamed
Across destiny’s bitter hills again and again
Ancient lakes, morning’s snowbound trails, frozen streams.
Far, shining Alpine peaks, out of my reach
Layers of clay, bright-colored, time-kissed
The tracks of dinosaurs on a rock-hard beach
Juniper bushes, scorpions and mist
Through time, disaster or inspiration
Tree-held or wasted, sage scrub and forest
Sand and shore, wild lilac, golden aspen
Sorrow or hope, the yearning heart rests. 
Where my eyes point, squint, captured by color
Summits or dreams, one foot, then the other.

The poem that won honorable mention is a little different. It’s about how weird life is, how we really never know what’s going on or what something will mean down the road. Sometimes what seems most meaningful in the moment ends right then and there, and other things that don’t seem like such a big deal turn out to be very important — in my case, running on trails with my dogs. The poem was inspired by a meme I saw on Facebook.  “No Seed Ever Sees the Flower.” 

No Seed Ever Sees the Flower

It was all a big blur back then but I
Moved as if I knew what I was doing.
Maybe I thought I did. I had no clue,
Of mysteries the future was brewing.
Every step led somewhere I could not know.
Running blind on sage brushed chaparral hills,
California sun. It was enough to go.
With no idea where. The random thrills,
Falling in love, a moment or a year
A new job, a new friend, a journey. “This
is the ONE!” but it wasn’t. Shed some tears
and keep running. The hard hills listened.
Now I know there is no plot. No sacred shrine
With answers. The trail itself is life’s line.

I’m a dog lover and over the course of my life I’ve had more than two dozen dogs, usually more than one dog at a time, sometimes four or six dogs. Dogs are great hiking pals .They always want to GO. No discussion. No debate about what trail to take. No, “Well, I don’t know. I was going to clean the fridge.” With a dog. It’s all, “YES! NOW??? Yay!!!”

For a while in the 2000s I was lucky to live with a small pack of Siberian Huskies. All of them were rescues. I lived in the Southern California mountains — where it snows — on 1/4 acre, fenced. It was husky heaven. My huskies were Jasmine, Lily and Cheyenne. At some point I took in a very troubled mixed breed, a lab/dobie mix, a barky, black puppy I named Dusty T. Dog. My huskies adopted him immediately and taught him everything they could about being a Siberian Husky. But Dusty wasn’t a Siberian husky, but he tried. 

Lily T. Wolf and Dusty both came to live with me here in the SLV when I returned to Colorado after I retired. Lily lived to be 17 and enjoyed one real Colorado snowstorm. 

This is Dusty’s poem in memory of his husky sisters. As you might expect, isn’t a sonnet. Naturally, it is doggerel…

Howling Dogs by Dusty T. Dog in 2016

Coyotes howl at the too bright moon
My sisters and I awake in the living room
Lily is first, she howls and yips back,
The next thing I know she’s waked the whole pack.
Cheyenny howls and Jasmine howls too
“Try Dusty,” they say, “Howl at the moon!”
I look at my sisters, lovely and brave,
Singing in moonlight like wolves in a cave,
I throw back my head, but I can just bark
Like some Pomeranian at the dog park.
“It’s all-right little Dusty. Just give it some time,”
Says Jasmine touching her nose to mine.
The years have gone by and now I can howl
When the sirens blare, cops on the prowl.
My human howls, too, in sweet memory
Of Jasmine, Cheyenne and precious Lily.

I still have dogs — two. One is a big, white livestock guardian dog, an Akbash dog, named Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog. The other is a mini-Aussie named Teddy Bear T. Dog. I adopted them both from the Conour Shelter in Monte Vista. They’re best friends to each other and to me. 

When Covid hit, we started taking our long rambles out at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge because with more people home all the time, our usual places became too occupied. My dogs are always leashed; it’s the rule, and its respectful to the animals who belong at the Refuge. Not that we don’t belong there, but our territory is the gravel road. 

From our territory we’ve watched elk, mule deer, coyotes, bald eagles, golden eagles, Harris Hawks, Northern Harriers, red tails, night hawks and great horned owls. All the waterfowl. We’ve listened to the songs of all kinds of birds, and watched a Tiger Salamander as he slowly crossed the road. In winter, while Bear’s nose tells her the whole story, I try to read the animal writing in the snow. Once, in a snowstorm, a black fox crossed our trail. It was magical.

Both my dogs love it, but walking alone with Bear out there on a snowy day is one of the sweetest things in my life. We hate summer. That inspired this poem.

Yearning on a 90 Degree Day

Minus five. The sky is silver with snow. 
Airborne crystalline promises shimmer,
In the morning light. Minute spectra glimmer.
I leash my big white dog, and off we go.
Hoar frost from the bare trees’ smallest branches
shaken free, drifts slowly on my dog and me,
as we walk beneath the cottonwood trees.
With each step of my high boots, fresh snow crunches.
The parallel tracks of Nordic skis shadow 
Our path through this season that ends too soon, 
Blue shadows, the angled light of winter noon.
The distant Sangres gleam white with snow.
I stop, rest my hand on my dog’s warm back, she 
leans against my leg, we savor our frozen paradise.

For Bear and me, winter is never long enough, but sooner or later, spring arrives and it’s not totally awful. There’s plenty about it to love.

First Meadowlark

March north winds blow gusts hard against my cheek
Lift my jacket’s hood, unasked but warming.
Snow squalls brush the mountain’s face, the sun breaks
Through, lights a pond where geese huddle forming
A tight community against the wind.
High above wind’s rush the soaring Sandhill cranes
Circle. My dog and I stop to watch, to listen.
Among the clouds, a golden eagle reigns
He set the cranes in motion, here then gone.
The cranes circle slowly, land, and resume
Their morning. My guide, sniffing, nose down 
finds a scent,  reminds me it’s her walk, too.
From a distance comes a meadowlark’s sweet
song. In that brief moment, two seasons meet.

As you have heard by now, all my love poems are to the San Luis Valley. 

Well, having said so much good stuff about dogs, I’d like to finish by giving cats equal time. They are pretty great animals, but lousy hiking companions. That said, a cat I had as a kid used to follow me into the forest across from our house. He would walk along beside me — 20 feet away. Cats are cats. I recently — here at this museum — met a guy who actually DOES hike with his cat.

Many years ago, in honor of all my cats, and as a gift for my niece who was a little girl then and who knew them all, I put together a little kids book of cat poems called, Cats I’ve Known. If Dusty’s poem is Doggerel, I guess this is catteral.

God Makes the First Cat

God made the world in just one week,
And every creature he made unique
He made the rabbit, horse and frog,
He made the loyal loving dog.

He made the fish, he made the spider,
A hippo to make the rivers wider.
He worked on butterflies and hens,
Then he sat down to think again.

“In all of my menagerie
There’s something missing. Let me see.
A world needs horses to pull plows,
A world needs chickens, dogs and cows.”

“But when the daily work is done,
A world must find some time for fun.
Some time to frolic and to play
Some time to sit in the sun all day.”

“Time to relax when work allows
I must make something to show them how!
Someone fluffy, someone funny,
But more intelligent than a bunny.”

God decided to make up cats,
To give them work, he made some rats.
When he was done, he picked one out
And started to throw the cat about!

The cat was cute, the cat was fluffy
But he didn’t like to be treated roughly.
The cat scratched God on the back of the hand,
And God said, “If you scratch a man,

“Like you scratched me,
You won’t be forgiven so easily.”
God watched the cat for signs of remorse,
But the cat felt no remorse, of course.

The cat just cleaned his ears and hair
And ignored God as if He weren’t there.
“This will not do,” said God to the cat.
“You won’t succeed if you act like that!”

“You must learn to apologize
Or you won’t be fed and that won’t be nice!”
“Now, please, a penitent meow
and you can have a bowl of cat chow.”

The cat stood up and stretched one leg,
He absolutely refused to beg.
Well, God respects integrity,
In small animals you and me.

“You’re right,” sighed God, “I was too rough,
Don’t you think we’ve argued enough?”
God reached down and stroked the cat,
Behind his ears, and down his back.

He was rubbing his hand on the cat’s soft fur
When the cat began to purr.
“What a soft and soothing sound,”
Said tired old God as he sat down.

The cat curled up in God’s lap and stayed
And so God rested that seventh day.

Thank you so much for enduring so much poetry. And thank you Rio Grande County Museum for allowing me to read. Just so you know, this collection of poetry and all my other books AND Messages from the Hidden Lake are available on Amazon. 

Next, you’re going to see 150 years of Del Norte History come to life — actually, you’re not but the people at the Museum will if they want to.

My Airdyne

Airdyne

I’ve written many odes to my Schwinn Airdyne over the years. Today I was riding through the Austrian Alps toward a glacier I would love to see but never will. The road is wonderful. I’m grateful to Bike the World — whoever they are — for all the rides I’ve taken with their videos as I ride my stationary bike.

As most of the readers of my blog know, I have damaged knees, two of them. The worst one suffered an ACL tear that was not repaired with surgery because I had no insurance. Yeah. I live in THAT country. The injury happened in 1992. It was treated with a leg brace and crutches and after that I was told not to hike for another six weeks.

1992

It was 3 months in total before I was allowed to hike again. I got a mountain bike in that interval because a leg that is immobilized soon loses muscle mass. I know a lot of people — particularly women of my generation — don’t think much about “muscle mass” but I’ve realized in my sunset years that nothing was more important to me back then than keeping on the trails with my dogs. In 1992, I was 40.

The leg healed and I continued to run on it until 2004 when my right hip went south with osteoarthritis. This stuff takes a toll. I had surgery — hip resurfacing — on that hip and was supposed to be able to run again afterward, but I couldn’t. The three years between the first sign of the damage and my surgery were harrowing in many ways. The physical pain became excruciating, and it was very hard to get on any trails in that kind of pain. By the time I’d rehabbed from the surgery, my running muscles were gone and a repaired joint is not the same as the original. Ever. It’s good, but different. I tried running and it was so awkward and strange like I had someone else’s body. I have run since, occasionally, but I also know that high-impact exercise wears out man-made joints — of which I now have two — more quickly than does low impact exercise and that surgery and rehab is no picnic. I don’t want to do it again if I don’t have to.

My rehab back then — 2007 — involved an Airdyne just like the one I have now. That and an old-school Nordic track ski machine.

Where was I going with this? OK, so for more than 15 years now my primary sport has been riding an Airdyne. Today I was riding and thought, “Why am I doing this? What’s the fucking point?” A little voice answered, “There’s no point, maybe, but think of how it might be without it?”

I don’t know how it might be without it. I do know how it IS.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends an upright stationary bike above all other kinds of exercise for people with knee arthritis — both osteo and rheumatoid. So where would I be without it?

I don’t know. In worse physical condition overall, certainly. The Arthritis Foundation gives it several thumbs up for reducing pain and maintaining mobility. So maybe my knees would hurt (which they very seldom do) and maybe they wouldn’t work even as well as they do.

So I will persist…

My Airdyne is like the one in the featured photo but mine has racing stripes. I love the irony.

Aaaaahhhhh….

I didn’t always drink coffee. I didn’t start until I was in my late 20s and my then boyfriend, Peter, made coffee with Medaglio Oro. Wow. It was — still is — a kind of Italian coffee available in supermarkets. In the late 70s the fancy-schmancy coffee culture hadn’t arisen and most people drank some stuff that came dripping out of their Mr. Coffee. For years my folks used the “percolator” (pre-Mr. Coffee, god I feel antediluvian). Neither of those styles brewed anything like what Peter made that afternoon in his apartment. As we sat down with our coffee he told me how his grandmother — from Calabria — had never accepted American coffee. “Come acqua!” Like water… I saw what — I mean I tasted what she meant.

From then on I liked coffee, but I didn’t drink it every day, though that happened soon after. Coffee houses existed in Denver but had a very different vibe than they developed once Starbucks arrived on the scene in the 90s. Still, in a few places it was possible to buy beans. I bought a coffee grinder.

Another boyfriend — Tom — went to Guatemala to study Spanish and brought back five pounds of unroasted beans for me. I roasted them in my oven the night before my one-woman painting show in 1981 and toasted that event on the actual morning with my first cup of Guatemalan coffee. It was amazing and for days after my house smelled sooooo good. I still love Guatemalan coffee.

By the time I went to China I was drinking coffee every morning. It was a little challenging in China which isn’t known for its coffee. In reality, on the island of Hainan they grow amazing coffee and I was honored by a gift of this wonderful stuff by the head of my department in a moment that felt as secret as a drug deal. One day, as I was leaving the building where my office was, he — a man in his 70s or 80s — stepped out of his office and motioned me to come inside. I was afraid I was in trouble, but no. In his lovely English he told me he had been saving something for me. Let me say right now that everyone I worked with in China — except maybe my Irish colleague and my husband — knew everything about me. So… He opened the cupboard door and reached far, far, far in the back and pulled out a small packet wrapped in newspaper and tied with pink string. OK, a lot of things in China were wrapped in newspaper and tied with pink string.

“It’s coffee,” he said, “very special coffee. It’s grown on Hainan Island.” He handed it to me like a secret — which it was.

He was so right that it was special. I was always trying to get more, but it was difficult. There was coffee in the Friendship store, but not that.

When I went to Hainan Island for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) I was able to drink it again, and I brought some home with me. Their way of serving it was similar to Vietnamese coffee with sweetened, condensed milk — not my favorite. Part of what I love about coffee is its bitterness. I drink it with cream

In the Desert

BY STEPHEN CRANE

In the desert 
I saw a creature, naked, bestial, 
Who, squatting upon the ground, 
Held his heart in his hands, 
And ate of it. 
I said, “Is it good, friend?” 
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered; 
“But I like it 
“Because it is bitter, 
“And because it is my heart.”

Naw, Mr. Crane, I wouldn’t go that far.

I changed my coffee brewing methods (from drip…) to a Bialetti after one of my students from Italy (I was teaching English as a second language at an international school) rented a car from us to drive while he was in San Diego. When his dad came to visit, he brought with him a Bialetti Moka Express. He said, “My son tells me you love coffee, but you can’t make coffee with that,” and he pointed dismissively at my Mr. Coffee. He made the point very clearly that there is NO OTHER WAY to properly brew coffee. This was 1987. He gave me very clear instructions and the rest is history.


These days I drink a coffee that’s roasted in Pueblo, Colorado, Solar Roast. My favorite is Zeus, described as “🌱 Dark and moody blend, just like those who drink it!” I’m not dark, but moody, maybe… I love it. It’s…

Ambrosial

And Teddy agrees

Teddy cleans out my cup after the very last sacred drop is gone.

Hi Martha

“Hi, Refuge. I’m going to park here, with the other cars, OK?”
“Did you bring your pals?”
“Of course.”
“They’re good dogs.”
“Mostly.”
The Refuge grins. “I know how you feel about them. Thanks for keeping them close to you. The little guy looks happy.”
“Always.”
“I have some surprises for you today.”

I nod. Teddy pulls to the left. Bear walks close to my right leg. She’s decided that whether Teddy is there or not she and I will have “our” walk. Teddy smells the messages left by the dogs who belong to the rangers. By the pond there is a lot of goose shit. A dozen geese, two parents and eight nearly grown goslings, and a goose couple swim near the distant small island. Something bright blue catches my eye. It’s a vey beautiful male duck. I look him up at home and learn he is a Ruddy Duck and isn’t even in my Birds of Colorado.

The sky sends a cool breeze. This whole day has been miraculously, unseasonably cool, so cool that I was able to do yard work on the griddle, I mean front yard, chat with neighbors, take my mail from the mailman, and clean up the garden. Only the trained eye will notice how much nicer it looks. I work out there without a micron of interest, but plants love neglect, apparently. My neighbors like the flowers.

The day is so cool that the primrose that blooms in the cool evening at the Refuge has not even closed today. The milkweed is budded but not yet bloomed.

As I approach the pond on the return I notice that what I just took for granted as tree swallows is something much bigger, not that different in shape, and really interesting to watch. I think they are some kind of small raptor. At first I think “kestrels” but they don’t behave like kestrels. There are also many of them which is weird for a raptor. I’m thinking as I watch it that it’s a raptor but they don’t act like one. Not at all. It’s their feathers that say “raptor” to me, that and what I expect and what I know — the jail in which we’re trapped. They fly more like the tree swallows and are clearly hunting bugs above the water. I send them my blessing, hoping they love deer flies. They’re beautiful and I’m enchanted.

Bear is happy for me to stand watching birds however long I want. Teddy is beginning to understand it’s a thing I do. Finally I realize we should go home. It’s getting to dog’s dinner time.

“Thank you,” I say, as always to the Valley, the surrounding mountains steel gray on this cool day with some clouds hanging below the peaks. I feel again how connected I am to this place and how mysterious that connection is.

Once at home I looked up the bird. It’s a “common nighthawk” and it’s not a raptor. It’s a nightjar. They were so beautiful to watch. As I learned about the bird, I thought “The Refuge is my teacher.”

Everything this guy describes in the video, I witnessed this afternoon.

And THEN

I haven’t been watching the hearings. I’ve been catching up afterward. It feels to me as if two nations are attempting to exist simultaneously. One of them is all Pride and Juneteenth and the other? Back in 2020, when I heard Trump’s phone call to Raffensperger, I was appalled. Now I know there was more to it than just that phone call (which was enough!) there was a whole parallel universe going on, ready to go down. Everything hung on the integrity of — it seems — a handful of people. Undermined confidence in the election process seems to be the net result of this whole shit show. New Mexico recently had to have its courts step in to insist that the election be certified. “While two of the three panel members finally agreed to certify the results after pressure the state courts demanded they do so, one continued to refuse, citing “his gut feeling” that the results were wrong. That man was at the January 6th attack on the Capitol.” (Heather Cox Richardson)

It’s very discouraging. It makes me yearn for the half-light world of ignorance. That damned tree of knowledge. “Now you’ve done it,” says God, shaking his head, “You’re going to have to live in reality from here on out.”

Featured photo: Masaccio’s depiction of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden before and after restoration. It kind of cracks me up that some artist felt (under pressure from???) they had to paint leaves over Adam and Eve’s privates considering that it was their nakedness to each other that was half the problem in the story. But then, God gave them clothes that were more functional than leaves. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”

Tuesday Thoughts

Most of the people I knew in China had known hunger. It was such a close reality for China for all of its history that the friendly greeting wasn’t “Ni Hao?” (You good?) it was “Have you eaten?” Even in 1982 when things had improved since both the famine the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, meat was used as a spice far more often than as the central part of a meal.

The other day, driving down the highway toward my friend’s house, I saw two very tattered, very ragged, very dirty, homeless people walking along the road. Neither looked sad, so there’s that. I think often of the close call of 2020. If I had still be in California and working, I might very well have ended up homeless. It’s hard to say. I could have decided to sell the house (and prices were good) and come here, just like I did in 2014, but maybe I wouldn’t have had that chance. I don’t know. Maybe because I taught so many online classes I would have sheltered behind my laptop during the worst of the year. That Wheel of Fortune again.

We’re comparatively lucky in this country, or have been for quite a while now. We’re kind of weird and entitled. I think that’s a problem. We don’t have a “right” to half the stuff we claim to have a right to and we don’t have — some of us don’t have — respect for those things we all have a right to. Life. Even the avocet mom and dad yesterday in front of my car were fighting for that right for themselves and their chicks. I don’t know if I killed any of the chicks, and I am afraid I might have.

That whole event has made me consider my place in THAT place and awakened me to an obliviousness I was, uh, oblivious to. Somehow, in my mind, it had become a place that existed FOR me. Humans do that all the time. It is not there for me. I’m a trespasser.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats

We Got Out!

Pretty nice walk out there this morning — beautiful and peaceful and then I had to break the law.

In front of Bella as we were leaving the Refuge were two American Avocets, staring intently at the bank of the pond. At first I didn’t know why then I saw their chick. They were determined to walk on the road and frantic about the car. I ended up backing up 1/4 mile to a place where I could turn around, then breaking the law by driving the wrong way on the one way loop. Some laws are more important than others. Anyway, no one caught me so no harm no fowl (ha ha).

The chick is in front of the closest bird very well camouflaged.

Summer is so different out there. If I manage to deal with the heat and the bugs, I think it might be the best season. NO ONE goes there.

For the first time in a couple of years Bessie and her family were near the fence. I was so happy to see them. Even dad was there. Two or three calves, born this year, and the two horses. I don’t know what it is about those cows, but I love them. I am so happy when I see them. The horned cow is mom. Dad is on the ground beside the two calves in the first photo. The cow’s head belongs to “my” cow, Bessie. Curious and wanting some attention, the horses walked over.

There were also elk tracks beside the road. The mud makes them look a little like cow tracks, but never in my life have I seen cow tracks without cow poop nor do I see cattle tracks out there without horse tracks…

Such a relief to get out and such a lovely morning. Bear and Teddy are both relaxed and happy, too.

Introvert’s Lament

It’s been a busy few days with lots of human contact working to solve problems.

Friday I spent the morning in the museum helping the new director edit a slide show so it would reach people more effectively. Yesterday I spent the morning with my friend Perla doing an interview for an article for the Colorado Central Magazine. I like people, and the people I spent time with over the past few days I like very much. I believe in the projects we were working on, too, so everything was wonderful. But afterward I was utterly exhausted.

As a “reporter” I have a goal which is to write an article people will want to read with the possible ancillary goal that Perla will have success at the upcoming fiber festival in the town where the magazine is published. To me that means I need to depict an interesting person who does beautiful work and sells it.

The last two years have shown me how much people like knowing the artist behind the picture they’re looking at. I’ve sold two paintings based on someone’s momentary attraction to a painting followed by a story — one told by a fellow artist to the customer who then met me, and the other because I lost myself and started telling the buyer about the pigments behind the paint. The stories and contact with me sold the paintings.

It hit me that the colossal fascination with Van Gogh — whose work is brilliant and beautiful — is partly based on stories about his life. People “know” Van Gogh and they feel sorry for him and, in a way, want to make up to him for the suffering and slights he endured in his life. Of course, to ME Theo is the victim there, but… Same with Frida Kahlo. The stories behind her life bring out something good in people. Great artist? IMO, no. But what a story. So…

So I’m off for what I hope is a quiet day with (godwilling) a walk at the Refuge. Thunder for the last two days made that impossible. Bear endured and Teddy didn’t care. I discovered with Bear that staying near her and being extra affectionate seems to keep her calmer. OK. Like that’s hard. ❤️🐾

Featured photo: a detail of one of Perla’s creations, a long scarf

Not Much Going On and I’m Grateful

I had my own private jubilee yesterday when it REALLY RAINED 3 times. Yep. Maybe, maybe, maybe La Niña is over and we’re at least in a neutral cycle. Honestly the rain is great but my real interest is in winter snow. Yes. I have a one track mind, or maybe 3 track, definitely not an 8 track mind but… Thunder and lightning and a terrified livestock guardian dog, torn, as always, between protecting me from danger and hiding from the thunder. She finally just jumped up on my bed (she doesn’t do that) at least, I guess she figured, protecting the place to which I retired when darkness falls. I don’t know what goes on in her mind during thunderstorms other than she’s stressed. Teddy doesn’t seem to care. It almost seemed as if the front lawn grew and greened as the rain fell. I thought, “I’m going to have to mow it now,” and then remembered I left the mower outside. You see I have already mown the lawn-like-thing.

Really, I don’t know if I have anything left to say any more that I can write daily. I don’t want to write about politics. I have opinions (as we all do), but I don’t have any illusion about their relevance. It occurred to me not long ago that stupid people run the world. Anyway, President Biden fell off his bike yesterday — he had straps on his pedals which add some power on the upstroke, and I think he got flustered in his dismount but the media was all over it. I have never ridden with pedal straps.

I don’t know anyone who’s ridden a bike who hasn’t fallen, but there you go. I’m 8 years younger than Biden and pretty fit but I can’t lift either leg high enough to get onto my bike. I bought a little step thing (thanks Chris for the idea) but that means I have to carry it with me (that would be funny!) or NEVER get off my bike. Well, I can put the bike on the ground, straddle it, and lift it up which works fine, but I dunno… Anyway, I’m about to start pedaling in solidarity…

Banal Update from the Back of Beyond

Last night I looked at the weather forecast for the coming week, and there’s a definite possibility of rainbows for the next several days.

I know the weather in the Back of Beyond is probably NOT the most universally interesting topic, but if you — as did I — had driven the 14 miles to Del Norte yesterday and seen how desiccated everything is you’d be doing a happy dance, too. Of course, Yellowstone Park has been contending with floods.

Anyway, the dogs and I will take advantage of it — though last time, on our recent lovely evening walk — I got bitten by the dreaded deer fly. I guess the wind isn’t TOTAL protection. Sheltered from the wind on the back of my leg, one of those little monsters sank his sadistic, scissored jaws into my lower calf. I KNEW I shouldn’t have gone out there in shorts.

There was a minor dust up at the museum because of the title of my poetry book. The director got her hand slapped for something on her personal Facebook page (???) and began to be concerned about the museum selling a book called Shit, Fear, and Beauty. She had to call me to talk it over and clearly felt horrible. I think she was surprised when I just laughed. My plan was to donate the proceeds from five books to the museum. Now the museum will be out a potential $25. OH well.

I told her to call me Henry Miller from then on.

I really thought it was a hoot, and wasn’t in the least angry. I just thought it was hilarious. The very very last thing I want is for the new director to get into any kind of trouble. I like her, she’s doing great, and godnose I love that little museum.

Still, something about it bugged me. I don’t want to be censored, and the title is explained in the book. I woke up yesterday having decided in my sleep that rather than read from a script that had my poems included, I would read from the book. Inspiration just kept building, and I customized the cover of the book I will read from.

I’ve even designed a permanent cover that censors that word. I like it as an artistic statement, particularly as there is nothing in the book that even the most puritanical critic would censor. The irony of THAT is that Amazon’s publishing platform won’t approve it because the title is Shit, Fear, and Beauty and you can’t read the word “shit.” There’s nothing funnier than reality. Art is the unexpected. “Censored” on the cover makes it a better book; now if only Amazon will let me do what I want.

As Emerson said, “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of everyone of its members… It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”


Speaking of rainbows… Here’s a cultural phenom… https://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/hundreds-of-rainbows-set-up-forest-camp-in-routt-county/?fbclid=IwAR1OOjeCAa1XYgZZCmYNyyocoKoRs48rzIldpyu4ujHrzZHxCJWmblmQTU0